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  • Former Soviet Republics Redefining Themselves With Sport -- Media Watch


    (ATR) CNN reporters Amanda Davies and Ollie Williams are tackling the "new frontier" of sport.

    The Byterek Tower in Astana, Kazakhstan (Getty Images)
    "Small wonder Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet republics, are desperate to redefine themselves with something big," Davies says in the 30-minute special. "What could be bigger than hosting the Olympics, or the World Cup?"

    CNN interviewed Around the Rings director of business development Ed Hula III for perspective on cities bidding for events like the 2022 Winter Olympics and the European Games.

    "Kazakhstan wants the 2022 Winter Games and has turned Astana, its capital city, into a sporting brand (albeit one marred by the doping controversies that follow its Astana pro cycling team)," Davies says.

    "Azerbaijan is hosting this summer's European Games, has a Formula One grand prix coming up, and is expected to try for the Summer Olympics in 2024.

    "Then there's Turkmenistan, a nation so repressive and secretive that it ranks on a par with North Korea, which is also embracing international sport."

    Davies also references the 128th IOC session taking place right now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "On July 31, Kazakhstan discovers the fate of its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Its only rival is China."

    AP writer Stephen Wilson says Beijing is the favorite in the race for the 2022 Games. "It's a contest between China, the world's most populous nation and a rising global giant with a huge economy, against a young country and former Soviet republic in Central Asia that is hoping to establish itself as a player on the world stage.

    Retired Chinese professional basketball player Yao Ming at the 128th IOC Session (Getty Images)
    "Against that backdrop and after a low-key campaign, Beijing goes in as the favorite as it bids to become the first city to host both summer and winter games."

    The AP also takes a closer look at the underdog Almaty's bid for the Games. The analysis explores Almaty's population, previous Olympic bids, major sports events hosted, number of venues, and projected cost.

    Reuters says that the decision the IOC faces on Friday in choosing between Almaty and Beijing to host the 2022 Olympics will be tricky.

    "There are only two candidates, both somewhat unlikely; Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, ensuring that Asia will host three Olympics in a row after Pyeongchang, South Korea was awarded the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo the 2022 Summer Games."

    Sochi 2014 figure skating bronze medalist Denis Ten at the 128th IOC Session (Getty Images)
    Julian Linden, who is covering the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur for Reuters, says that for the IOC, it is a double-edged sword.

    "The appeal of taking the biggest events to Asia, home to more than half of the world's population and boasting the fastest growing regional economy in the world, is obvious and irresistible.

    "But it is the lack of interest from other parts of the world that worries the IOC. Four different candidates from Europe originally entered the bidding race, but all dropped out, mostly because of the escalating costs."

    NBC Sports reporter Nick Zaccardi weighs in on the 2022 Olympic host vote, saying the differences between Almaty and Beijing start with size.

    "Look at the nations' most famous athletes on hand for the International Olympic Committee vote in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday.

    "Kazakhstan has Olympic bronze medalist figure skater Denis Ten, who is 5 feet, 6 inches. China brought Yao Ming, the retired basketball star who is 7 feet, 6 inches."

    Sam Laird, writing for the news site Mashable, explains why he thinks no one wants to host the Olympics anymore.

    "Prospective hosts like Boston are second-guessing and examining mega-events more closely, thanks to lessons learned via both World Cups and, Stateside, domestic professional teams.

    "Time and again, we see host countries bullied by FIFA or the IOC into overextending themselves. Figuratively speaking, the hosts' eager mouths end up writing checks their bodies can't cash without self-inflicting major corporeal harm."

    Compiled by Nicole Bennett

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